I’ve found that sharing in another mother’s experience with a postpartum mood disorder can be helpful during your own battle.  It is wonderful to know that you are not alone.  Below is a collection of my posts regarding my struggle with PPD (postpartum depression) and PPA (postpartum anxiety).

If you or someone you know might be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, the following websites are great resources for evaluating symptoms and finding help.  If you are having feelings of harming yourself or your child, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or dial 911.

Postpartum Progress
Postpartum Support International
U.S. National Library of Medicine


Why I Climb

Your Mama Wears Climbing Boots #climbout

2300 climbers. 41 states. 5 countries.

Why do I participate in Climb Out of the Darkness?

Because twice I was in a place so dark and frightening that I didn’t think I would ever find my way back.

Because I went undiagnosed for so long the first time that I barely functioned on a basic level.

Because 1 in 7 women each year find themselves in that dark place.

Because suicide is the second leading cause of death in the first year postpartum.

Because in three years, no one has joined me for my climb. That shows me how far we have to come with awareness and stigma surrounding postpartum mental health. Would it be easier for me to just stop trying? Absolutely. But I will not give up. Mothers are important. Families are important. Warrior moms who are struggling, who we have lost, and who are survivors deserve more. Many of them cannot speak for themselves. I will not be silent.

This is why I climb.

Climb Out of the Darkness Team Wisconsin Green Bay #climbout

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We’re snapping a Huggies Snug N Dry #UltraHug selfie for Climb Out of the Darkness!

Selfie in the car #UltraHug #sp

Did you know that Huggies Snug N Dry is hosting an #UltraHug Contest? From now until June 25th, post a selfie of you and your kid(s) on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #UltraHug and share a local community organization or cause that you support. On July 6th, voting will narrow down contestants and the winner’s cause will receive a $2,000 grant from Huggies! What a cool way to make a difference in your community.

Baby Jo and I are nominating Team Wisconsin – Green Bay’s Climb Out of the Darkness for Postpartum Progress. I am a two-time survivor of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Did you know that 1 in 7 women faces maternal mental illness each year? Each year, I join Postpartum Progress to Climb Out of the Darkness in honor of these strong women while also remembering my own journey. Here is the official video for Climb Out of the Darkness 2015:

When C was about eight months old, I stumbled across a blog post written by a woman with postpartum anxiety. I realized that my inability to function was not just the “new normal” that I had begun to accept. I called for help right away and slowly climbed out of the pit of postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression and postpartum OCD. I may have been more prepared the second time around, but I was still frightened when the intrusive thoughts became debilitating during my pregnancy with Baby Jo. I look at my children and I am so proud of the battle we fought together. I’d love to win a $2,000 grant from Huggies Snug and Dry Ultra to go toward this amazing cause and help Postpartum Progress in its mission to help women, while increasing the awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in my own area.

Our Fight Song COTD15 #PPD #myfightsong #warriormom #climbout

Which community cause would you nominate in an #UltraHug selfie? Be sure to check out Huggies Snug and Dry Ultra Diapers from Walmart. The range of sizes fit children from newborn to 35 pounds and the Leak Lock® System provides for up to 12 hours of protection. The gap-free fit sits snugly around Baby Jo’s thighs, but she doesn’t think about that. What does she like? These diapers feature Mickey!

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Climb Out of the Darkness with Postpartum Progress: Why I Climb

Climb Out of the Darkness 2015 Team Green Bay

Have you heard the buzz about Postpartum ProgressClimb Out of the Darkness 2015 and wonder what it is all about? I am leading a climb in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is why I lead Team Green Bay. This is why I climb.

Each year, 1 in 7 women face maternal mental illness. That is a staggering statistic. In my personal experience, I’ve learned that once you face maternal mental illness once, you are likely to experience it again. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression nearly eight months after C was born. I fell through the cracks the first time. My OBGYN only asked me if I was “feeling depressed” at my 6-week appointment. There is so much more to depression than feeling depressed.

When I got pregnant with Baby Jo, I already had a plan in place in the event that I experienced a recurrence of an antenatal (during pregnancy) or postpartum mood disorder. My preparedness had a lot to do with the work of Postpartum Progress. Postpartum Progress is a non-profit organization supporting moms with postpartum depression, and is supported by tax-deductible donations. They work to raise awareness of postpartum depression and related disorders, and to provide more and better support to those who need it. If it wasn’t for the work of this excellent organization and the community of women I met through it, I would not have been adequately prepared for the antenatal and postpartum mood disorders (PPD, PPA, PPOCD) that I experienced with Baby Jo.

Kristin Novotny babywearing

I am now a two-time survivor of postpartum mood disorders. I climbed out of that dark hole twice and, let me tell you, it is a climb. That’s why I am leading a team in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on June 20th for the third annual Climb Out of the Darkness event. Team Green Bay will be climbing for the millions of women who experience these disorders every year. We’re climbing for ourselves, our children, and for all the women who need support in their personal climbs out of depression.

Climb Out of the Darkness Team Green Bay #climbout

Please consider joining my team, either in person or in kind with a donation. If you are local to Green Bay, Wisconsin, I’d love to meet you and share this climb with you! You may register to climb with Team Green Bay or support us in donation through our team page on Crowdrise, by clicking here.

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4 Reasons I am Happier After Surviving Mental Illness

4 Reasons I am Happier After Surviving Mental Illness #LittleMamaJama

It was eight months after I had my first child before I realized that the “new” me was actually sick. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD). Antidepressants and talk therapy brought me back from the abyss. I later realized that I also suffered from postpartum anxiety (PPA) and postpartum OCD (PPOCD). When we decided we wanted a second child, I talked to a therapist and a psychiatrist about it. We had a plan. It’s a good thing we did, because at 34 weeks I was dealing with intrusive thoughts that were increasing in severity. I went back on antidepressants and this time I was able to function and enjoy my baby when she arrived.

I never imagined that I would end up with postpartum mood disorders. Twice. While I am not the same person I was before mental illness, I have arrived on the other side a happier person. There is something about being a survivor of mental illness (or a warrior mom, as those with antenatal and postpartum mood disorders identify ourselves) that makes you more self-aware. I’ve discovered that I’m a happier person in four ways:

  1. Empathy. I find myself more understanding of other people’s needs. Extending grace to others provides me with a greater sense of peace.
  2. The importance of self-care. Through therapy, I learned my triggers for stress and anxiety. I need sleep, a shower and my morning cup of coffee. Sometimes that means making Hubster get up early to be with our two early birds so that I can shower before he goes to work. Sometimes it means setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier than I want to wake up. Sometimes it means closing my laptop before my to-do list is complete. But it keeps me functioning!
  3. The art of saying “no.” I am aware of my limits and I know what happens if I overextend myself. I have been freed of the need to people-please and am in control of my own time.
  4. Empowerment. In the thick of postpartum depression, I didn’t think the dark clouds would ever lift. I didn’t think I would be capable of feeling joy ever again. I thought my old self was lost forever. Now that I’m on the other side, I feel like there is nothing I can’t conquer.

Are you a survivor of mental illness? How has it changed you?

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Our Climb Out of the Darkness: Team Green Bay #climbout

Climb Out of the Darkness Team Green Bay #climbout

Team Green Bay! That’s right – it was just our family of four this year (Hubster was taking the picture above) representing Team Green Bay for the Climb Out of the Darkness for Postpartum Progress. Was I disappointed about that? Yes, I admit to being a bit bummed out that no one wanted to join us. But I don’t want that to take away from the personal significance of this year’s climb.

I have now climbed out of the darkness twice. It was 2.5 years ago when I first discovered Postpartum Progress. C was eight months old and I was completely lost, struggling in my daily life. It was getting to the point that getting myself up from the couch seemed insurmountable and I feared that this was simply how life would be from then on. Postpartum Progress helped me realize that this was not some “new version” of myself. I was sick.

The blog, literature, community and resources stemming from that first visit to Postpartum Progress proved invaluable to me in my journey to recovery. Well, two journeys to recovery. I had perinatal depression, anxiety and OCD with Baby Jo. Thankfully, I was armed with information and support the second time around. There is nothing like the love and support of fellow Warrior Moms. There are no words to describe my gratitude for all they have meant to me since that first day, 2.5 years ago.

Team Green Bay may have been small this year, but we were mighty.

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I’m Back! Climb Out of the Darkness with Postpartum Progress.

Something big happened yesterday. David Gray performed his song, “Back In The World,” on the Today Show. Mr. Gray has graciously allowed Postpartum Progress to use his beautiful, and perfectly appropriate song, as its official song for Climb Out of the Darkness 2014. Postpartum Progress released this official video yesterday. Every time I watch it, I’m moved to tears.

Maternal mental illness isn’t just a women’s issue – it affects families everywhere. If, like me, you’re moved by this video, please consider donating and/or joining a local climb. I will be leading a climb in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on June 28. You may find local climbs and learn more about donating by clicking here.

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